How Alfred helps take the “Work” right out of Housework – Startup Story #14

Work. Children. Chores. Fun.

Trying to squeeze all of the above into a typical day is challenging. The demands of modern life leave most feeling drained, tired, and bored.

That’s why Marcela Sapone and Jess Beck created a solution to remove chores from the equation – all you have to do is say “Hello Alfred”.

0P5A9257Alfred is a new way to manage your household, eliminate stress and add fun back into the modern person’s schedule. We were fascinated by this business model and application – naturally, we had to dig deeper into Alfred.

So, we had a quick chat with Marcela and Jess to get to the brass tax of what Alfred could do – here’s what they had to say:

Q1.Tell us a little about Alfred and your personal motivation for starting this business.

Jess and I originally built the service for ourselves as a way to help us balance the demands of everyday life and busy careers. Hello Alfred has a unique opportunity to help improve people’s quality of life by taking advantage of technology and scaling so that they can spend their time doing things they enjoy and not chores. There aren’t many services that impact a person’s everyday like ours.

Q2.Can you give us a rundown of how Alfred works?

Gladly.  Essentially – Alfred is meant to help you manage your home, putting it on autopilot so that you can spend your free time doing other things.  We offer a tiered service, so it varies depending on which tier you purchase, but the basic idea is this:

We assign you an ACM (Alfred Client Manager), who gets a key to your home. You download the Hello Alfred app. Every week the ACM visits your home to take care of everything you want us to handle for you – groceries, laundry, dry cleaning, home cleaning, repairs, special requests, etc. All you have to do is punch into the app what you want in a given week. We take care of the rest.

As time goes on and your ACM gets to know you and your preferences, we are able to offer a continuously improving and customized service that makes your home just the way you like it.

Q3.Who are your key stakeholders and how are you offering them value?

1) ACM’s: We strongly feel that the best way to provide a sustainable high quality service to our customers is by first focusing on our ACM’s (Alfred Client Managers), who enable our service to run.  After a highly selective recruiting process (acceptance rate has been around 6% so far), the new ACM’s receive extensive training and mentorship from experienced ACMs.  We provide benefits for any that work full-time (greater than 30 hours / week), as well as promotion opportunities, and we have found them to be extremely happy and satisfied with their jobs.

2) Clients: The reason why we’re a company is to help give people back the ~3-7 hours a week that is spent taking care of all of the things that we coordinate for them – laundry, dry cleaning, groceries, packages, and the logistics behind them.

3) Investors:  We have investors who believe in what we’re doing and have extended us not only their capital, but also their expertise.  We enjoy working with them and strive to be good stewards of their investment in a way that provides the best service to our clients and strong opportunities for our ACMs.

Q4.What is Alfred’s biggest achievement to date? How did you go about accomplishing this?

Alfred’s biggest achievement to date is the more than 50,000 requests – likely 5 years of time – we’ve been able to execute on behalf of our members in the last 8 months. For us, that number symbolizes the amount of trust our members put into Alfred and the time we are able to give back.

Untitled5Q5.What has been your biggest set back? How did you deal with it?

The biggest set back thus far has been choosing how quickly we grow. We’ve made the decision not to sacrifice quality for speed and have to say, “wait for us” to a lot of potential customers in other parts of the world. However, we are getting better at scaling quality so you can expect to see us in a lot more geographies soon.

Q7.What was technically the most challenging part of developing Alfred?

I think the key thing that a lot of companies forget is that tech is still human powered and human delivered.  We luckily had some mentors who helped guide us in the right direction around this issue and elected to have a W-2 workforce long before it was popular in our space.​

Q8.What are some of the hurdles and roadblocks you still face?

Scaling is going to be an adventure – full of exciting times but also a lot of challenges. We’re looking forward to it.

Q9.What are some of the current trends you see in the industry?

To start with the obvious, the conversion of workers from 1099 to W2 employees has been a huge trend over the past month after the Uber ruling.  We’ve had W2 employees for well over a year so we haven’t had to deal with this directly, but right now the industry has been reacting to a changing legal landscape.

We also see companies in the space starting to behave in ways like more established companies.  Google just hired Homejoy’s technical team.  We did the same to WunWun.  I wouldn’t be surprised if more of these are on the way.

Q10. There are definitely a lot of companies similar to Alfred floating around right now. What areyou doing that differentiates you?

Well as everyone’s aware the sharing economy space has seen tremendous growth over the past few years.  Our sub-segment within it though, actually doesn’t really have anyone that’s doing the same thing.  The closest competitors are probably companies like TaskRabbit, Magic, (and until last week – Homejoy).

However, we offer a different level of service because 1) we’re continuous, and 2) we’re a single point of contact that handles everything.  Most of the other companies that deal with home services or some aspect of what we do perform the service on a one-off, on-demand, basis.  That is, you might want someone to pick up your pharmacy items for you, so you order a TaskRabbit to do so.

Alternatively, some provide regular service, but only for one type of item (like groceries, or home cleaning), and they just deliver it to you.  We, on the other hand, coordinate all of these together and then go the last mile – for instance, putting your groceries away for you in the fridge.

hello-alfredQ11.Where do you see Alfred in five years?

I see Alfred letting people come home happy in cities across the US, providing a high quality level of service to all of our customers and doing our best to help make it so they spend minimal time managing all of the elements of running a home.

Q12.If you had a chance to go back, what would you want to do differently?

Realize we were on to something sooner! Alfred started slowly, and then all at once everyone wanted their own “Personal Butler”. We’ve seen tremendous, growing demand.

Q13.Any advice for startups trying to make it big or join the On-Demand space?

Focus on making the right business decision, which isn’t always the cheapest. Lower costs don’t necessarily make for higher profit or a better product. More universally we’ve found that you should challenge yourself to start with the hardest thing first, then you earn the right to do the easy stuff.

For more information on Alfred, you can visit their website: https://www.helloalfred.com/

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